Tourism jobs come back in 2011

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The state’s travel and tourism industry is slowly recovering from the recession.
The sector is in the spotlight for National Travel & Tourism Week, which was created by presidential proclamation in 1983. Cities across the country will host events and discuss the economic impact of tourism.
The Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau has several events to observe the week, starting Monday at its monthly board meeting. CVB Executive Director Neal McCoy and consultant Berkeley Young will present the CVB’s 10-year strategic plan.
The plan, according to the CVB, will show how the city can grow its tourism market share during the next decade.
On Tuesday, the first participants in the city’s tourism leadership program will graduate. Then on Wednesday, Young will host two public meetings to discuss the strategic plan. Attendees need to RSVP for the 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. programs via (662) 841-6521.
The state’s tourism sector has flexed its muscles during the past year. It had several major victories in the Legislature recently, including a bill that will allow more craft beers, another bill that eliminated the three-day wait to get married and an additional one last year that strengthened incentives to make films in the state.
Tourism advocates say the changes will help attract more visitors to the state.
“The travel and tourism industry continues to be a driving force behind this recovering economy and Mississippi is positioned to take advantage of some pent-up travel demand from the recent recession,” said McCoy, who also is this year’s president of the Mississippi Tourism Association.
He emphasized that the more travelers spend in the state, the less money residents have to pay in taxes. Research from the Mississippi Development Authority shows tourism revenues saved each Mississippi household $393 in taxes in fiscal year 2011, which was from July 2010 to July 2011.
The industry also directly employs 82,000 people, or 7.5 percent of the state’s nonfarm work force. About 30 percent of those jobs is in casinos or casino hotels.
Food services and drinking places, gaming and lodging businesses are the biggest tourism employers in the state, the MDA report said.
The total sector added about 3,500 direct jobs from the previous fiscal year, MDA research shows. Yet, it will have to add another 3,000 jobs to get back to its pre-recession numbers.
The industry joined the rest of the state in shedding jobs from fiscal year 2008 to FY 2011. Numbers from MDA show the state lost 61,135 nonfarm jobs during that time.
The tourism industry’s peak employment levels were in 2000, MDA research shows, when 94,100 people were directly employed in the sector.
The industry is forecast to grow long-term, but it will be relatively slow.
MDA’s report, authored by research program manager Tom Van Hyning, forecasts a 1 percent growth, or possibly slightly less, per year for the next five years.